Best Credit Card for American AAdvantage Miles

Right now, as of writing this on a cold, damp day in Brooklyn, the BEST credit card for quickly accruing AAdvantage miles is this one: 

 

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

Citi Select® / AAdvantage® American Express® card

 

Here is the link to the application. Note that it goes directly to the landing page and does not specify the terms of the application, but here they are:

  • 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within four months
  • $150 statement credit on an American flight (I used mine to book a trip to Anchorage)
  • 2 Admirals Club lounge passes
  • $85 annual fee waived the first year

You also get the usual perks:

  • 1 free checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • 10% of miles redeemed back (up to 10,000 miles per year)

Note that this card does carry a foreign transaction fee of 3%. So don’t pack it when traveling internationally.

There are two versions of this card, those being a Visa Signature and an Amex. The both have the exact same signup bonus, but I picked the Amex.

Here’s why: Small Business Sunday. Amex gives you $25 to spend for FREE every year at nearly any small business. I now have four Amex cards, so that’s $100 worth of free gifts from local businesses. And that’s pretty amazing. Amex also gives you the opportunity to sync your card to your Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook and offers lots of perks and statement credits for checking in, tweeting, etc. Having a Visa Signature gives you access to concierge service and the Visa Signature Hotels collection, but since I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, I don’t need another card with the same perks. I’d much rather have the $25 credit, which, when you think about it, brings the annual fee down to just $60. The ability to have access to sales and promotions throughout the year is also just a really nice way to stay engaged with the card. And, all else being equal, that’s why I picked the Amex version.

About the signup bonus: the link above is the exact same one I used to apply. I was a little leery about not getting it, but I’m close to making my spend, and called Citibank to confirm I’d get a statement credit before I booked the Anchorage trip. The rep went over the details of the signup bonus, and they were exactly what’s written above. 50K miles, club passes, $150 statement credit. When she told me, I hit the “Pay Now” button as I had my flights pulled up on aa.com at the same time. Also of note was that the call was answered immediately with no hold time. Pretty nice.

This offer will probably not be around for much longer, and 50K is as generous as the signup bonus gets. The usual offer is just 30K, so if you’re thinking of getting this, I’d go ahead and pull the trigger on it. As with all offers, YMMV, so make sure you keep an eye on your AAdvantage account when you expect the miles to post.

American has quite a few sweet spots in their award chart, including a discount for cardmembers every quarter and 10% of redeemed miles returned every year. This can really add up to some great discounted trips. I really love the idea of taking Qantas to Australia, airberlin to Europe, or Finnair to somewhere in Scandinavia. Of course that’s just the trip of the iceberg. I wish AAdvantage miles were easier to earn. Nevertheless, this card is a huge step in the direction of a great award booking, and, in my opinion, the best offer available at the time of writing.

Do You Get Double Points on Chase Sapphire for MTA in NYC?

Answer: YES. Absolutely. As a fellow disgruntled forced loyal MTA rider (like most of NYC), I always use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card when I load up my MetroCard. I also use it on all my other travel and restaurant spend, except when I’m trying to meet minimum spends on other cards.

You’ll also get double points for these other travel expenses:

  • Rental cars
  • Anything remotely related to air travel (tickets, drinks on the plane, baggage fees, change fees, booking fees [OK – any fees], gift cards, and some points purchases)
  • TAXIS (important to also know in NYC!)
  • Any type of car service (for the Brooklyn people)
  • Public transportation anywhere (Tube in London, BART in SF, CTA in Chicago, etc.)
  • Hotels, even including Airbnb – I confirmed this with a phone rep

Restaurants is another huge category:

  • Fast food
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Catering
  • And pretty much anywhere that’s coded as an “eating place” – meaning they serve food (or drinks!). I use my Sapphire in bars all the time.
Eating Place

“Eating Place” (also, I love Mexican food)

 

Interesting to note something that’s not included in the “travel” category, though: GAS. If you fill up your rental car with gas before returning it, you’ll only earn one point per dollar. Better to use the Chase Ink Plus/Bold or the American Express Premier Gold Rewards card for those transactions since they do earn two points per dollar at gas stations.

Since travel and restaurants are my two biggest spend categories, I love love love the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Worth every penny of the $95 annual fee.

Booked: Anchorage in August!

Yes! Thanks to this alert from The Flight Deal, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on this one. It’ll be a trip for my birthday, which is August 26. 🙂

As with everything travel-related, I had a few reasons for going through with this one:

  • Great deal, obvi. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska
  • I just got the Citi AAdvantage Amex and called to confirm I’d get a $150 statement credit. I will, which made it a no-brainer. I also get 2 miles/dollar spent, and this counts toward the minimum spend to get 50,000 more AAdvantage miles
  • I plan on being Executive Platinum by that time and hope to get upgraded automatically, or can use e-certificates to upgrade the fare
  • It’ll will net me about 10,000 RDMs and EQMs, nearly halfway to a free R/T domestic trip
  • I have BusinessExtrAA, and get points there, too

Check out this sweet itinerary:

Screen shot 2013-03-11 at 9.14.27 PM

 

Looking forward to the trip, and to seeing how American fares on a long-haul flight. Be sure to sign up for The Flight Deal’s daily newsletter – they’ve been on fire with the great deals lately!

Update: Kaspresky Staples Rebates

See original posts here and here.

Valid

Valid

Looks like it’s gonna go through. I chatted the Help Desk on the rebate site, and they say I have to wait for 30 days – they want to make sure I don’t return it. But after that, the checks should come in. Thus giving me 1,500 free AAdvantage miles. But since it’s helping me to meet spend on my new Citi AAdvantage Amex, the real haul is way more.

Excited that it’s clearing just fine. That being said, I’ve got this software if anyone needs it… :p

Looking forward to getting those checks in early/mid April!

 

The Feeling of Travel

It occurred to me today as I stepped on Delta metal after being on United and Aeromexico flights the past day or so. It felt right.

There are so many options when it comes to carriers. I think people who travel often should sample a wide variety of them before committing. I’m sort semi-dating American right now though I do like Delta a lot. The feelings I like when I’m on Delta are of being assured, feeling safe, and stepping into an old habit or groove. I feel like I can relax as the MQMs are flowing in. I understand the (arguably shitty) SkyMiles program, and know what I want to use it for (hint: trip to Australia later this year). I know the hubs, the routes, how to wring blood out of a stone AKA book an award flight with them. I dunno, it just felt natural somehow.

That’s the feeling I seek when I travel. That sense of rightness, and of exploration, and of comfort. I know my upgrade chances are always slim with Delta, and I wish that would improve, but I always look forward to the SkyClubs. Delta giveth and Delta taketh away.

On the contrary, being on United metal felt kinda icky to me. It’s a shame because I love Chase Bank so much. Their credit card signup bonuses are the best in the industry. If Chase partnered with Delta, that would be the best-case scenario. But they don’t. They have United. Bleh. I avoid giving them revenue whenever possible. I would really only use them if I were flying free or booking an award on another, better airline. Why don’t I like United?

Just in that same way that Delta jives with me, United just doesn’t. I find the FAs and CSRs to be almost kind of spiteful and vindictive. It’s like there’s this mean streak running through the core of the company and I can’t quite place, but that shows up from time to time. And each time, like yesterday, I’m reminded why I avoid United. Some people love United, and that’s great. Maybe they live in Houston or Chicago, or just really like the service or clubs or destinations.

There are many reasons why people like the things that like. But some of them just can’t be placed.

Am I off here? I love being up in the air. Love it. But more and more lately, I’m becoming very aware of the company I’m sharing the experience with.

I Hope US Airways Doesn’t Ruin American’s Culture

Don't eff this up

Don’t eff this up

Being on a Delta flight today made me realize I’ve quite gotten used to the style of Delta. Everything from the blue seat covers to the logo to the service offered by the flight attendants. There’s a certain no-nonsense, practical attitude that just feels right – it’s what I like most about travel on Delta metal.

That being said, I’ve quite warmed up to American Airlines over the past year. I think their upgrade policies are a lot more lenient than Delta’s, and as an Executive Platinum later this year, I really look forward to putting that to the test. Although it’s a bad comparison, I’ve been Silver Medallion on Delta and have taken all sorts of flights: hub, non-hub, short-haul, mid-haul, direct, etc. Never once have I received an upgrade. Compare that then, with the free upgrade I received on American over Christmas with no status and on a discount economy fare. How did I do it? I asked. Nicely. I’ve tried that with Delta a few times, and they laugh and roll their eyes cuz it ain’t gonna happen.

So, to the point. I’m warming up to American. But the things I see in US Airways, I don’t like at all. I know they have crazy generous routing rules with their Dividend Miles award redemptions, but what about service at a basic level? They feel stingy to me, nickel-and-dimed to death, and the markets they serve are places I don’t consider destinations. If I stick with American instead of Delta, I may connect in Charlotte or Philly every once in a while. I just hope US Airways doesn’t ruin the generous and attentive vibe that American has worked really hard to develop over the past few years.

I love that most of American’s FAs are “career” flight attendants. They run a tight ship, and I like that. They are also eager to serve snacks and meals in biz and first cabins, and overall just feel more open. I really dread Doug Parker stepping in and removing a lot of the things customers have gotten used to, introducing more fees, and overall cheapening the “New American.” I also hope US Airways simply fires all of their phone agents instead of combining them with American’s responsive crew.

Not to say American is all roses. In NYC, it’s a competitive market, obvi, and American loves to fly little regional jets out of LGA and JFK. Why, I’ll never know. They also don’t have a lot of transfer partners (I’m thinking Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards here). And their Admirals Clubs are set up to make you spend money, whereas I feel Delta is freer with the booze and snacks. Little things. But it’s the little things that end up mattering the most, right?

I’m cautiously watching from the sidelines as Delta implements a revenue component to their status program, and as American’s will undoubtedly take a few blows when it fully combines with US Airways. It’s not a question of if, it’s one of how much. Until then, I hope the “New American” doesn’t become worse.

I also cannot freaking wait to use Avios on the places US Airways flies. 2014 will certainly be interesting for the FF community.

Trip Report: Aeromexico Economy LAX-GDL

First, I need to start this post with a cringe. I cannot STAND LAX. Oh my god. So when I landed at Terminal 7 on United’s flight from DEN, I set about immediately transferring to Terminal 2, where the international departures happen. To do that, I have to completely leave the terminal (bad), go through security again (bad), but didn’t have to recheck my bag thanks to United’s interline baggage policy (very good).

As I wandered through the fog outside LAX toward Terminal 2, I was reminded of why I can’t stand LAX, or LA in general. The airport is poorly designed, it’s literally falling apart, and each new process feels like pulling teeth, which kinda ties into the bad design.

When I arrived at Terminal 2, it was pretty easy to find the Aeromexico desk. I could hear it before it saw it. A cacophony of screaming Spanish. The occupy the old Northwest space. I know so because I could still see where they crossed out Northwest a few years ago and put up Aeromexico.

I waited in a long line to get my boarding pass, and credited the flight to Delta. Since it was a Q-class economy fare, I’ll get full mileage credit. The agent was friendly and efficient, but my god the people. It was a completely full flight.

The gate on the boarding pass read 24A. When I got to the gates, I checked the monitors like always and saw they’d changed it to 28. Fine. When I got there, people were lined up waiting to speak to the gate agents. Gross. Some of them were crying. Like, convulsing crying. Did I miss something? Was the gate change that dramatic? I heard a lot of people bitching about it while waiting in line.

The boarding process was almost comical. There were FAs literally showing people to their seat and stowing away baggage for the customers. First time I’d ever seen that happen. Even still, people were lost and confused. Watching the boarding process in an aircraft always makes me lose faith in humanity.

Aeromexico felt grimy, like they’d never cleaned the planes. The FAs were thorough, modern, and cultured, but the other passengers were like animals. I had three Mexican men in contact with me as they slept, snored, and randomly jerked. I was also the aisle bitch and was bumped CONSTANTLY. Jesus. I am not a big person. It takes effort to hit me. Also, every time someone came down the aisle, they clutched my headrest for dear life, which of course made my whole seat go back. This happened over and over and over. I won’t even mention the quantity of crying babies because you all know how much that thrills me.

The ride to GDL seemed like forever. It finally touched down at 6am. They did that Euro thing where they plop the plane down and make people take a bus to the terminal.

Bus to terminal at GDL

Bus to terminal at GDL

Customs was a breeze. My company hired a broker specifically to get me through customs. All I did was present my declaration and touch a button. Within minutes, I was at the Delta counter receiving my boarding passes to ATL and EWR. After the hellish experience with Aeromexico, and um, I guess I’m now classifying it as hellish, I was thrilled to see those dark blue and brick red kiosks.

Final take on Aeromexico: right up there (down there?) with Alitalia. Wouldn’t be my first choice for travel, in any cabin. Why do all of Delta’s SkyTeam partners SUCK?

 

Trip Report: Delta Economy GDL-ATL-LGA

View of mountains in Guadalajara from GDL

View of mountains in Guadalajara from GDL

I’m on a roll on this GDL-ATL flight, and can see Texas below me. This flight was exactly what I’ve come to expect from Delta: solid, reliable, easy.

Just sat down on Delta's GDL-ATL flight

Just sat down on Delta’s GDL-ATL flight

Only bone: they had me in Zone 3 boarding. Really, Delta? I’ve got the card and everything. But other than that, this flight has brought back warm and fuzzy memories after being on United and Aeromexico the past couple of days.

Also, this flight really solidifies Delta Vs. American for me. I like them both equally. Dust, please settle.

Lots of people on here have cute Southern accents and it reminds me of home. Flying out of GDL was gorgeous. Guadalajara looks cute from above, and the mountains and canyons beyond the city were stunning. I wish I could’ve spent more time there.

Over Mexico

Over Mexico

Oh! I should give thanks to Amex because I’m using some of my $200 airline credit this year to buy myself a margarita.

I have an evil plan for when I get to ATL. I want to get bumped, get a voucher and put on a flight that instead arrives at JFK. I hate flying into EWR. HATE it. I checked on the Fly Delta app, and my chances are 70/30 at this point that I’ll get bumped. So fingers are crossed.

Will report more from ATL SkyClub, which will be my first time there! Let’s keep this buzz goin’, Deltoid.

Another stamp on the ol' passport

Another stamp on the ol’ passport

 

So I’m safe at sound now and wanted to update on the final flight, ATL-LGA. It was supposed to be to EWR, but I despise that airport and asked the agent the agent at the SkyClub if I could fly into LGA instead. Since the flight to EWR was delayed anyway, the agent was able to put me on the next flight to LGA. Score. Cheaper taxi ride!

Since the flight was in a different terminal, I headed over there to imbibe a drink instead. The SkyClub in Terminal A was HUGE, but man was it packed. I tried to go to the bathroom, and there was a line. The little bathroom only had two stalls, yet the SkyClub is built to accomodate about 200. Stupid. I left and went to the bathroom in the airport, which was actually emptier and had no line, then went to the SkyClub in Terminal T.

A vast improvement. Ample seating and much less crowded. I promptly grabbed a rum and coke and chilled for a sec.

When I fly for over 24 hours then have a drink

When I fly for over 24 hours then have a drink

It was really nice. I left soon after to go board. The boarding process was easy enough, and I got all settled into seat 29F. After everyone was on, the pilot announced that we’d have to deplane to change aircraft. The whole point of changing my flight was to get to New York sooner, not later. Anyway, after we boarded again, we sat on the tarmac for a while before we departed. Then, a couple of hours later, I was finally home after a long and crazy run out to GDL. The flight was quick, lots of turbulence, and I nodded off a lot. I felt so gross and tired when we finally landed, and hopped right into a taxi.

Back in the snow

Back in the snow

I did notice that when I got put onto the LGA flight that the agent knocked off the GDL-ATL segment, so I anticipate having to call about the missing miles and MQMs in a few days. The weather has sucked lately, Mercury is in retrograde, and pretty much all of my flights were delayed. But, I’m back in the NYC and looking forward to my next trip, wherever it may be.

 

Trip Report: United Economy EWR-DEN-LAX

March 6

March 6th started off with a call from Charlie, my boss at the courier company. When I can, I work as an air courier, which has helped me explore many different airlines, airports, aircraft, classes of service, and all sorts of other travel-related minutia.

Charlie’s a lady. She called me at 7:30 – I was off work that day and still asleep. “Can you go to Guadalajara today about 2pm?” she asked. “I’d love to.”

The client was supposed to get back to us my 10am about the 2pm departure, but they didn’t get back to us until 12:30. The next flight to GDL was at 5:10pm on United with a LGA-IAH-GDL itinerary.

Enter Winter Storm Saturn. United decided to cancel the aircraft coming in from IAH that was supposed to take us back, so Charlie had to work her magic to get me to GDL, and ASAP.

She found a EWR-IAH-GDL itinerary out of Newark at 5:30. So, cargo in hand, I drove west in my Hertz rental car toward New Jersey. Due to traffic, the air train, and the freaking Holland Tunnel, I didn’t get to the airport checkin desk until 5:06. I tried every trick in the book. And I do mean every trick.

“Can I upgrade to first?”
“Can I check it at the gate?”
“Is there anything I can do to get on that flight?”

No, no, no said United’s version of a Red Coat. “You are late. The flight is closed.”

I pushed my cart into a corner and called Charlie. I don’t know how the hell she did it, but I am writing this on United flight 270 bound for Denver.

So far, the service has been fine. I was highly unimpressed with the unwillingness of United’s phone and desk agents to do anything about the canceled LGA-IAH trip. The offered to put me on the next flight out, but it would’ve caused me to miss the last flight out of IAH to GDL. I would’ve had to stay overnight. The EWR idea was a good one, but it was half-baked. Getting from LGA to EWR is a project. Driving through Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Holland Tunnel (deserves its own mention), and down to Newark was brutal, mostly because of the traffic and the wind kicked up by the storm.

The baggage concierge lady was the nicest of the bunch. Security at EWR was surprisingly easy. As soon as I was out, I was literally 50 feet from my gate.

So now I’m on the first flight. Service is what you’d expect from an economy flight – and it’s a very full one too. Very quiet. No babies, thank gods. The seats are narrow and the legroom is wanting, but what can one expect? Charlie usually gets me into biz class, but everything was sold out today, probably due to the domino effect from the storm’s delays.

The connection in DEN is tight, and it’ll be my first time there. I hope my shipment gets checked through alright. The last leg is on Aeromexico and they interline checked the shipment… I know Delta was stopped doing this, but apparently United still does it.

I wonder if I’ll have to change terminals at LAX. Probably, right?

I’m looking forward to seeing what Aeromexico is like. The feeling I got from United today was ill-prepared and very unhelpful. I’m sorry to say, but that’s the overall impression I get from their unempowered employees.

Still, I’m basically on a mileage run to GDL, and will get a nice batch of MileagePlus miles (from the United flights), and a few SkyMiles (from the Aeromexico leg).

Eff it, I’m buying a Heineken. It’s been a long day of driving through Long Island, delays, setbacks, and finally, flights.

Above Denver

Above Denver

 

March 7

I’m writing this GDL-ATL. Wanted to update about DEN-LAX flight.

EMPTY. I got a whole row to myself. Still had a bit of that slimy United feeling that I generally dislike. There was also a screaming baby who was so loud I didn’t know babies could even be that loud. Also lots of trashy LA people, of course. Despite the loud babies (yes, plural), I managed to get to the REM cycle. I found myself wanting another round of the cycle. But alas, the time to touch down at LAX came much too soon.

Luckily, the gate to LAX when I got out at DEN was just two down. I grabbed a bottle of water and a sandwich, and before I knew it was boarding again.

First thing I did when I got to LAX: cringed. That West Coast vibe just doesn’t do this New Yorker good.

Dying

Dying

Next up: LAX-GDL on Aeromexico.

Why I Don’t Care About SPG Starpoints

Don't give a!

Don’t give a!

I fully admit I’m a rookie at best with miles and points collecting, but I’ve never understood the allure of Starpoints.

In theory, they are like a rare, valuable currency that can get one access to a variety of different airlines and hotel locations. But in practice, are they worth it?

Starcrap

The best signup bonus I’ve ever seen for the SPG Card is 30,000 Starpoints, which translates to 35,000 miles of a whole lot of different airlines. The signup bonus is great, and so is the flexibility. But there are a couple of things about the card that have also irked me. Read More

Dilemma of the Day: Which Caribbean Island?

St. John, USVI

 

Just what the subject says. As part of the signup bonus for the shiny new British Airways Visa Signature that I got during my recent App-O-Rama, I will soon get at least 75,000 Avios – and hopefully 100,000 Avios. They’re great for short hops or some mid-haul jaunts under 1150 miles. The caveat is that they can only be used on places where Oneworld has routes. So no Philadelphia, no Burlington, no Portland (Maine), no Albany… surprising, right? But then I pulled up the American Airlines route map and the British Airways Avios Calculator to see where all I could go on the East Coast. My eyes drifted toward the equator, and I saw St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and St. John just sitting there all lined up like a row of temptresses.

For 20,000 Avios R/T in economy, American will fly me to:

  • St. Thomas (STT)
  • St. Maarten (SXM)
  • St. Kitts (SKB)

But NOT St. Croix (and St. John doesn’t have an airport). I haven’t experiment with other islands yet, but I did notice it was the same rate to Cancun, though I’m not really interested in going there. Even though it’s not a short- or mid-haul, 20K R/T to visit the Caribbean from New York is pretty good, right? And it’s much less points the further south you start out from. Which brings me to my dilemma. Which Caribbean island should I visit first? I’ve been to none of them and don’t know where to start. I know they’re all probably amazing, but which one is best for a beginner? The research continues, into the islands as well as into the value of Avios.  I’d love to go sometime between April and June.

This redemption really got the thinking when I saw it, so I thought I’d share. It might be old news to some, but sure brought a warm feeling to imagine those bright, sandy beaches. Really liking Avios right about now. And open to ideas!